For so many of us, there was only one go-to book about periods we could read growing up: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, a book about a sixth grade girl’s search for a single religion after being raised in mixed Christian and Jewish household. This is a touching, engaging, well-written novel geared for prepubescent and pubescent girls and it was a crucial part of my adolescence. This book is an excellent choice for pre-teens to read, but given that roughly half the population menstruates, it’d be nice if there was a little more variety.
And it shouldn’t be limited to books for tweens. Reading about periods should be a part of health or sex education for people of any age. We all know that it can be challenging to find the right books about menstruation. It needs to have some good information in it about periods but it should not overwhelm you with too much information.
Another problem is that there are so many women who hold negative beliefs about their monthly period. However, in my opinion they are indirectly and yet quite seriously insulting their very beingness as a woman. There are so many women who believe this information is floofy and somehow not meant for them and they live their lives striving to separate themselves from “other women” by being cool, collected, less needy, less erratic. Yes, we’re getting better at talking about this completely natural bodily function. However, we have a long way to go.
And if you’re looking for some period reading material, you’re in luck – I’ve pulled together the books that talk mainly about menstruation that are up-to-date and easy to find. It’s also important to note that I’ve tried to include books that provide a bit more information than just the basics.
Anyway, without further ado, here are a few books I love on discovering the power in our cycles.
- Period: 12 Voices Tell the Bloody Truth
This collection of personal essays is great for those who are looking to learn a little bit on a wide variety of period-related topics. It includes narratives from intersex, trans man, and disabled perspectives and it highlights several different experiences with that time of the month so many of us share. Twelve writers collaborated on this piece and each of them is fantastic. There are stories about fibroids, about wishing to have periods, wishing not to have periods, pads vs. tampons, having periods at work, dealing with a period while being homeless, running a marathon while menstruating. It’s written for a young-adult audience but I also think this is a book that every parent of a young daughter should read because it’s a little advanced, so perhaps not a book to hand to every pre-pubescent girl, but there’s a lot in it about what we teach our girls about their periods. However, the book also discusses topics interesting and valid at any age so any person who has ever wondered if their period is normal should also read this book. Overall, Period: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth is a very educating (and
entertaining!) read and the essay format makes it a great commute read.
- Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity
This 2017 book by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a lawyer and vice president of development at the Brennan Center for Justice, provides an essential overview of the evolution and scope of the period movement. An educational and entertaining read, this book shows how a lack of access to menstrual products and care is harming women all over the world. This book is heartbreaking and absolutely worth the read. It was extremely informative and details menstrual health on many levels – from eliminating the “tampon tax,” to enacting new laws that ensure access to affordable, safe products. Periods Gone Public includes plenty of options for getting involved and making a difference, such as donating to Helping Women Period, and offers an excellent starting point in educating ourselves. This book is written in clear non-academic language and is a must for anyone interested in women’s issues and the battle for equality. Reading about her implementable period policies gives us hope that someday, menstrual products, which are a necessity for nearly every woman, may be viewed as essential and not just luxury items. What I loved the most about this book was how calculatingly persuasive it is and how it effectively inspires you to do something!
- Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement
This is a phenomenal book from the founder of the Period: The Menstrual Movement. Nadya Okamoto is kind of a period powerhouse because she attended Harvard and ran for office—all before turning 21. Nadya Okamoto is young and energetic and she is changing the way the world views periods and menstruators. When she wasn’t busy doing all that, she wrote Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement, a book that aims to explain what menstruation is, shed light on the stigmas and resulting biases, and create a strategy to end the silence and prompt conversation about periods. It’s gender-inclusive, and digs into some of the challenges that exist in period havers’ lives that aren’t always covered, such as issues of poverty, menstruation in incarceration and homelessness, and more. The book aims to break down stigma about menstruation and change the conversation around it. Period Power is the candidly refreshing book this generation needs because it draws attention to the problems that have been plaguing nation. Like with everything Nadya Okamoto does, this witty and insightful book shows passion, thoughtfulness, and energy. It’s also important to note that Nadya Okamoto experienced homelessness in her youth. During this time, she realized that being homeless + having your period is horrible because she didn’t have easy access to facilities within which to take care of your health. Also, finding free menstruation products is virtually impossible. In this empowering book, Okamoto dives deep into research to explore the origins of menstruation taboo, how it hurts people who menstruate, and provides realistic expectations for the reader to go out and change the societal view on periods and menstruation.
- The Guide, Period.
The Guide, Period is written by Naama Bloom, the founder of the popular online site HelloFlo. This book is a modern and insightful guide to periods and puberty and addresses breast development, body hair, the onset of menstruation, and the effects of hormones, alongside q&as with doctors and reflections from real-life women and girls. This is basically the book you wish you’d had before you got your period but didn’t. Over nine chapters illustrated with cartoon portraits of racially diverse girls, Bloom talks about everything from period products to eyebrows (seriously) to why periods can be empowering. Although this is a popular book about puberty and periods for girls, it manages to avoid the sexual parts of growing up. It has a very modern layout, with interesting facts and trivia, but does talk about the other part of puberty as well (but not masturbation, sexual feelings and sexual intercourse). It’s important to note that proper medical terms and anatomy is shown in a hand drawn format. The author offers a compassionate and honest guide to the physical, psychological, and emotional dimensions of puberty, emphasizing how no two bodies are exactly alike or on the same schedule. The book is frankly informative without being over-educational and the candid humor and writing style is perfect for tweens.
- The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo: Menstruation
Published in 2000, The Curse is an interesting look at how society forms the way we perceive menstruation. This book may seem a little outdated in parts. However, the basics of how menstruation has impacted our culture over time are largely the same. Very interesting and enlightening as a whole, The Curse touches on everything from toxic shock syndrome to common period myths to the problems with gender-segregated sex ed. There is also a lot of information about the “feminine hygiene” industry. The Curse examines the culture of concealment that surrounds menstruation and urges people to think of menstruation as something normal.
- Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation
In the new book Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation, by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim, you’ll learn about everything from how pads and tampons were developed to how menstruation is handled in different parts of the world. This book manages to be both hilarious and educational in its approach to menstrual history. Most importantly, however, the book actually does what the Kotex ads only pretended to — it debunks myths, urges us to stop listening to such harmful stereotypes, and asks us to consider the realities of our own bodies. This enjoyable book is also illustrated with sometimes terrifying old ads for menstruation products. The authors also look at the crazy misbeliefs about menstruation throughout history when the woman’s period was demonized, medicalized, and mediated into an ideological ghetto. This book is so well researched that I think it would make a great “icebreaker” for parents as they have “the talk” with their daughters. The book is educational, well written and it could be a great guide for parents who just don’t know where to start the FLOW conversation.
Menstruation was once a taboo topic associated with superstition and prone to stigma, although half of the people in the world have periods. Unfortunately, in the 21st century it is still a taboo topic associated with superstition and prone to stigma. Because of these stigmas, a status quo has been established to exclude people who menstruate from the seat at the decision-making table. This created discriminations like the tampon tax, medicines that favor male biology, and more. These amazing books touch on this subject, and they address the centrality of menstruation in relation to core issues of gender equality and equity.